Allah mentions the Ba'sa' and Darra' that struck the earlier nations to whom He sent Prophets. Ba'sa', refers to the physical sicknesses and ailments that they suffered, while Darra', refers to the poverty and humiliation that they experienced,
(so that they might humble themselves) supplicate, humble themselves and invoke Allah, that He might remove the afflictions that they suffered from. This Ayah indicates that Allah sent down severe afflictions to them so that they might invoke Him, but they did not do what He ordered them. Therefore, He changed the affliction into prosperity to test them,
(Then We changed the evil for the good,) Therefore, Allah changed the hardship into prosperity, disease and sickness into health and well-being, and poverty into richness in provision, so that they might be thankful to Allah for this, but they did none of that. Allah's statement,
(until they `Afaw) refers to increase in numbers, wealth and offspring. Allah said next,
(. . and they said: "Our fathers were touched with evil and with good.'' So We seized them all of a sudden while they were unaware.) He tested them with this (afflictions) and that (ease and abundance) so that they may humble themselves and repent to Him. However, they failed both tests, for neither this nor that compelled them to change their ways. They said, "We suffered Ba'sa' and Darra', but prosperity came afterwards, just as like our forefathers in earlier times.'' "Therefore,'' they said, "it is a cycle where we sometimes suffer a hardship and at other times, we enjoy a bounty.'' However, they did not comprehend Allah's wisdom, nor the fact that He is testing them in both cases. To the contrary, the believers are grateful to Allah in good times and practice patience in hard times. In the Sahih, there is a Hadith that says;
(The matter of the believer is amazing, for nothing that Allah decrees for him, but it is better for him. If a Darra' (harm) strikes him, he is patient, and this is better for him, if he is given Sarra' (prosperity), he thanks (Allah) for it and this is better for him.) The believer, therefore, is aware of the test behind the afflictions whether it may be prosperity or adversity that Allah sends to him, as well as the blessings. Similarly, in another Hadith,
(The believer will continue to be tested by afflictions until he ends up pure from sin. And the parable of the hypocrite is that of a donkey, it does not know why its owners tied it or released it.) Allah said next,
(So We seized them all of a sudden while they were unaware.) meaning, We struck them with punishment all of a sudden, while they were unaware. A Hadith describes sudden death,
(Sudden death is a mercy for the believer, but a sorrowful punishment for the disbeliever.)
(96. And if the people of the towns had believed and had Taqwa, certainly, We should have opened for them blessings from the heaven and the earth, but they belied (the Messengers). So We took them (with punishment) for what they used to earn.) (97. Did the people of the towns then feel secure against the coming of Our punishment by night while they were asleep) (98. Or, did the people of the towns then feel secure against the coming of Our punishment in the forenoon while they were playing) (99. Did they then feel secure against Allah's plan None feels secure from Allah's plan except the people who are the losers.)
Allah mentions here the little faith of the people of the towns to whom He sent Messengers. In another instance, Allah said,
(Was there any town (community) that believed (after seeing the punishment), and its faith (at that moment) saved it (from the punishment) -- Except the people of Yunus; when they believed, We removed from them the torment of disgrace in the life of the (present) world, and permitted them to enjoy for a while.) (10:98) This Ayah indicates that no city believed in its entirety, except the city of Prophet Yunus, for they all believed after they were stricken by punishment. Allah said (about Prophet Yunus),
(And We sent him to a hundred thousand (people) or even more. And they believed; so We gave them enjoyment for a while.) (37:147-148) Allah said in another Ayah,
(And We did not send a warner to a township....) (34:34) Allah said here,
(And if the people of the towns had believed and had Taqwa...) meaning their hearts had faith in what the Messenger brought them, believed and obeyed him, and had Taqwa by performing the acts of obedience and abstaining from the prohibitions,
(We should have opened for them blessings from the heaven and the earth,) in reference to the rain that falls from the sky and the vegetation of the earth. Allah said,
(but they belied (the Messengers). So We took them (with punishment) for what they used to earn.) They denied their Messengers, so that We punished them and sent destruction on them as a result of the sins and wickedness that they earned. Allah then said, while warning and threatening against defying His orders and daring to commit His prohibitions,
(Did the people of the towns then feel secure),meaning the disbelievers among them,
(that should come to them our punishment), Our torment and punishing example,
(Bayatan) during the night,
(while they were asleep Or, did the people of the towns then feel secure against the coming of Our punishment in the forenoon while they were playing) while they are busy in their affairs and unaware.
(Did they then feel secure against Allah's plan) His torment, vengeance, and His power to destroy them while they are inattentive and heedless,
(None feels secure from Allah's plan except the people who are the losers.) Al-Hasan Al-Basri said, "The believer performs the acts of worship, all the while feeling fear, in fright and anxiety. The Fajir (wicked sinner, or disbeliever) commits the acts of disobedience while feeling safe (from Allah's torment)!''
(100. Is it not a guidance for those who inherit the earth from its previons inhabitants that had We willed, We would have punished them for their sins. And We seal up their hearts so that they hear not)
(Is it not a guidance for those who inherit the earth from its previous inhabitants...) "(Allah says,) did We not make clear to them that had We willed, We would have punished them because of their sins'' Mujahid and several others said similarly. Abu Ja`far bin Jarir At-Tabari explained this Ayah, "Allah says, `Did We not make clear to those who succeeded on the earth after destroying the previous nations who used to dwell in that land. Then they followed their own ways, and behaved as they did and were unruly with their Lord. (Did We not make clear to them) that,
(that had We willed, We would have punished them for their sins.) by bringing them the same end that was decreed for those before them,
(And We seal up their hearts), We place a cover over their heart,
(so that they hear not), words of advice or reminding''' I say that similarly, Allah said,
(Is it not a guidance for them: how many generations We have destroyed before them, in whose dwellings they walk Verily, in this are signs indeed for men of understanding.) (20:128)
(Is it not a guidance for them: how many generations We have destroyed before them in whose dwellings they do walk about Verily, therein indeed are signs. Would they not then listen) (32:26) and,
(Had you not sworn aforetime that you would not leave (the world for the Hereafter). And you dwelt in the dwellings of men who wronged themselves) (14:44-45) Also, Allah said,
(And how many a generation before them have We destroyed! Can you find a single one of them or hear even a whisper of them) (19:98) meaning, do you see any of them or hear their voices There are many other Ayat that testify that Allah's torment strikes His enemies, while His bounty reaches His faithful believers. Thereafter comes Allah's statement, and He is the Most Truthful, the Lord of all that exists,
(101. Those were the towns whose story We relate unto you. And there came indeed to them their Messengers with clear proofs, but they were not such who would believe in what they rejected before. Thus Allah does seal up the hearts of the disbelievers.) (102. And most of them We found not true to their covenant, but most of them We found indeed rebellious.) After narrating the stories of the people of Prophets Nuh, Hud, Salih, Lut and Shu`ayb, destroying the disbelievers, saving the believers, warning these nations by explaining the truth to them with the evidence sent in the words of His Messengers, may Allah's peace and blessings be on them all, Allah said;
(Those were the towns that We relate to you) O Muhammad,
(their story), and news,
(And there came indeed to them their Messengers with clear proofs,) and evidences of the truth of what they brought them. Allah said in other Ayah,
(And We never punish until We have sent a Messenger (to give warning).) (17:15), and,
(That is some of the news of the towns which We relate unto you; of them, some are standing, and some have been reaped. We wronged them not, but they wronged themselves.) (11:100-101) Allah said
(but they were not such who would believe in what they had rejected before.) meaning they would not have later on believed in what the Messengers brought them, because they denied the truth when it first came to them (although they recognized it), according to the Tafsir of Ibn `Atiyyah. This explanation is sound, and is supported by Allah's statement,
(And what will make you perceive that if it came, they will not believe And We shall turn their hearts and their eyes away (from guidance), as they refused to believe therein for the first time.) (6:109-110) This is why Allah said here,
(Thus Allah does seal up the hearts of the disbelievers. And most of them We found not...) meaning, We did not find most of the previous nations,
(true to their covenant, but most of them We found to indeed be rebellious.) This Ayah means, We found most of them to be rebellious, deviating away from obedience and compliance. The covenant mentioned here is the Fitrah that Allah instilled in them while still in their fathers' loins, and taking their covenant, that He is their Lord, King, and that there is no deity worthy of worship except Him,. They affirmed this covenant and testified against themselves to this fact. However, they defied this covenant, threw it behind their backs and worshipped others besides Allah, having no proof or plea, nor support from rationality or by divine law. Surely, the pure Fitrah defies these actions, while all the honorable Messengers, from beginning to end, forbade them. Muslim collected the Hadith,
(Allah said, "I created My servants Hunafa' (monotheists), but the devils came to them and deviated them from their religion and prohibited them what I allowed them.'') It is recorded in the Two Sahihs,
(Every child is born upon the Fitrah, it is only his parents who turn him into a Jew, a Christian or a Zoroastrian.)
(103. Then after them We sent Musa with Our signs to Fir`awn and his chiefs, but they wrongfully rejected them. So see how was the end of the mischief-makers)
(Then after them We sent), after the Messengers whom We mentioned, such as Nuh, Hud, Salih Lut and Shu`ayb (may Allah's peace and blessings be on them and the rest of Allah's Prophets), We sent,
(Musa with Our signs) proofs and clear evidences, to Fir`awn, who was ruler of Egypt during the time of Musa,
(and his chiefs) the people of Fir`awn,
(but they wrongfully rejected them), they denied and disbelieved in the signs, out of injustice and stubbornness on their part. Allah said about them in another Ayah,
(And they belied them (those Ayat) wrongfully and arrogantly, though they were themselves convinced thereof. So see what was the end of the evildoers.) (27:14) The Ayah says, `those who hindered from the path of Allah and belied in His Messengers, look how We punished them, We caused them to drown, all of them, while Musa and his people were watching.' Public drowning added disgrace to the punishment that Fir`awn and his people suffered, while adding comfort to the hearts of Allah's party, Musa and those people who believed in him.
(104. And Musa said: "O Fir`awn! Verily, I am a Messenger from the Lord of all that exists.'') (105. "Proper it is for me that I say nothing concerning Allah but the truth. Indeed I have come unto you from your Lord with a clear proof. So let the Children of Israel depart along with me.'') (106. (Fir`awn) said: "If you have come with a sign, show it forth, if you are one of those who tell the truth.'') Allah mentions a debate that took place between Musa and Fir`awn, and Musa's refuting Fir`awn with the unequivocal proof and clear miracles, in the presence of Fir`awn and his people, the Copts of Egypt. Allah said,
(And Musa said: "O Fir`awn! Verily, I am a Messenger from the Lord of all that exists''.) meaning Musa said, `the one Who sent me is the Creator, Lord and King of all things,'
("Proper it is for me that I say nothing concerning Allah but the truth. '') `It is incumbent and a duty for me to convey only the Truth from Him, because of what I know of His might and power.'
("Indeed I have come unto you from your Lord with a clear proof.'') `I brought unequivocal evidence that Allah gave me to prove that I am conveying the truth to you,'
("So let the Children of Israel depart along with me.'') means, release them from your slavery and subjugation. Let them worship your Lord and their Lord. They are from the offspring of an honorable Prophet, Isra'il, who is Ya`qub son of Ishaq son of Ibrahim, the Khalil (intimate friend) of Allah.
((Fir`awn) said: "If you have come with a sign, show it forth, if you are one of those who tell the truth.'') Fir`awn said, `I will not believe in what you have said nor entertain your request'. Therefore, he said, `if you have proof, then produce it for us to see, so that we know if your claim is true.'
(107. Then (Musa) threw his staff and behold! it was a (Thu`ban) serpent, manifest!) (108. And he drew out his hand, and behold! it was white (with radiance) for the beholders.) `Ali bin Abi Talhah reported that Ibn `Abbas commented on Allah's statement,
(a (Thu`ban) serpent, manifest), refers to "The male snake.'' As-Suddi and Ad-Dahhak said similarly. A report from Ibn `Abbas said,
"(Then (Musa) threw his staff), and it turned into a huge snake that opened its mouth and rushed towards Fir`awn. When Fir`awn saw the snake rushing towards him, he jumped from his throne and cried to Musa for help, so that Musa would remove the snake from his way. Musa did that.'' As-Suddi commented,
(and behold! It was a (Thu`ban) serpent, manifest!) "This (Thu`ban) refers to male snakes. The snake opened its mouth and headed towards Fir`awn to swallow him, placing its lower jaw on the ground and its upper jaw reaching the (top of the) wall of the palace. When Fir`awn saw the snake, he was frightened, so he jumped and wet himself and he never wet himself before this incident. He cried, `O Musa! Take it away and I will believe in you and release the Children of Israel to you.' So Musa, peace be on him, took it, and it became a staff again. ''
(And he drew out his hand, and behold! it was white (with radiance) for the beholders.) Musa took his hand out of his cloak after he inserted his hand in it and it was shining, not because of leprosy or sickness. Allah said in another Ayah,
(And put your hand into your bosom, it will come forth white without hurt.) (27:12) Ibn `Abbas said, "without hurt', means, `not because of leprosy'. Musa inserted his hand again in his sleeve and it returned back to its normal color.'' Mujahid and several others said similarly.
(109. The chiefs of the people of Fir`awn said: "This is indeed a well-versed sorcerer.'') (110. "He wants to get you out of your land, so what do you advise'')